Sep 7, 2014

College Football Playoff Threat Watch, Week 2: Bob Stoops beats you with leftovers


An instantaneous survey of five teams in the best position for the College Football Playoff's four spots at this very moment, plus the biggest threats looming for each. Be advised: these have nothing to do with the preseason Top 25 polls. If you get mad about this, you will be pointed to the previous sentence.

OREGON

Oregon reclaimed a game after trailing at the half. That's new!

Michigan State reverting to blowing leads is also a new old thing, but Connor Cook really had no choice in the second half. Oregon's defensive line jammed Michigan State's run game, harried Cook in the pocket, and held serve until Marcus Mariota showed up and did that thing where he creates three touchdowns out of thin air. Mariota with a healthy knee in a two-game national title scenario is sheer, uncut terror for opposing defenses.

The second half was a lopsided, 28-3 street race against the Big Ten's best team. Oregon is in the Playoff circle, and Michigan State is the car on fire in the ditch, the big-body that could not keep up, got sideways, and will now go to the repair shop before racing against high schoolers to improve its self-esteem.

(Those high schoolers are the Big Ten. We've broken our metaphors here, and we blame Mariota. He juked us clean out of our brain sometime in the third quarter.)

Threats: Stanford, though that's less certain than ever after watching Stanford's offense against USC on Saturday. A game at UCLA could be the toughest hurdle. UCLA allowed 35 points to Memphis. Oregon's already in the Playoff.

FLORIDA STATE

Simply dominated The Citadel in a game no one should have played or scheduled. I'm not sure how a number conveys "a listless practice played against painfully overmatched competition by supremely gifted athletes giving half-effort to prevent being hurt and also because they sort of didn't care a lot," but the score 37-12 does that perfectly. It's the serial number for football ennui, basically.

Threats: Florida, which scored 65 points on the MAC's most hapless team? Well, Michigan scored a bucket of points a week ago against a bad team. Optimism abounded, and hope rose like a hot-air balloon in the pearlescent light of dawn. Then Notre Dame flew clear through its tender fabric and sent it screaming toward the earth in a shutout of the Wolverines.

Let's basically assume Florida State, barring an ACC Thursday Night Hindenburg special, is also already in the Playoff. Louisville's just lurking and going for it on fourth down while leading Murray State by hundreds and hundreds of points. Bobby Petrino is a cannibal.

ALABAMA


Scott Cunningham, Getty

The only thing of note in Alabama's 41-0 friendly against FAU: the Tide played both Blake Sims and Jacob Coker against mediocre competition, ensuring a productive, measured, and balanced public debate in the state over which one should start at quarterback. The previous sentence is a lie. You should probably burn your home electronics, block all newspaper deliveries, and avoid all conversation with neighbors for the next few weeks if you live in Alabama.

P.S. This might be good advice in Alabama out of football season, too.

Threats: Florida? Is that a thing, maybe? No? Okay, it's still Texas A&M, Auburn, LSU, and the feeling among committee members that invincibility in Tuscaloosa is no longer a given.

OKLAHOMA

Tidy pummelings are Bob Stoops' favorite way to break in the season, and there's a good chance the Sooners can string together a good long chain of them all the way to the Baylor game on November 8.

Tight end Blake Bell had a receiving TD against Tulsa, the same Blake Bell who started at quarterback for the Sooners to begin 2013. You don't need to go out and buy something new, Oklahomans. Stoops can turn that old, scratched-up wardrobe of yours into a canoe the whole family can enjoy in just one simple step!

This also happened:


Threats: Boredom, Baylor, and Oklahoma State to finish the season. Texas lost 41-7 to BYU, has no offensive linemen with experience left, and is no longer a threat. Because I just said that, assume a Sooners loss in the Red River Shootout is imminent.

TEXAS A&M

Played Lamar. Blew Lamar out. Achieved nothing to ruin the perception that A&M's offense is lethal, and that its out-of-conference scheduling is a tiger's romp through an unguarded preschool.

Threats: LSU, primarily, followed by Auburn and Alabama. You want to put Ole Miss in there for fun, don't you? DON'T.

TEAMS THAT DID NOT PLAY THIS WEEK

Georgia, boldly crushing the bye before playing South Carolina. The Dawgs are out only because this is Week 2, and everyone else doubled up their data. Small sample sizes are the devil.

TEAMS THAT LOOKED KIND OF WEIRD AND SCARED US A LITTLE

USC can win low-scoring games. The Trojans only scored 13 points. That thing we said about small sample sizes being the devil applies here, because USC has played one game as a 1990s WAC team and another as a 1980s SEC team, and their real identity lies somewhere in a middle ground only found over time.

One other troubling thought: maybe Stanford's kind of a big, old slug of a football team that really can't go anywhere with much purpose?

TEAMS IN THE WAITING ROOM

LSU. Shut out Sam Houston State 56-0 and let freshman Leonard Fournette strike the Heisman pose on an FCS team.

Auburn. A sleepy, 59-13 cruise over San Jose State, which, to be fair is at least an FBS team. It is thus an ambitious choice of opponent, considering the SEC's piss-poor Week 2 slate.

Notre Dame. Beating Michigan this bad doesn't mean that much anymore. But the Irish looked great doing it!

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